As President of the Board of Education, Bill Thompson Was Simultaneously More, Less Effective Than Is Generally Claimed

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10/21/2009 8:56 AM |

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The Times delves into mayoral candidate William “Not Bloomberg” Thompson’s tenure as the President of the city’s Board of Education—when he was “rearranging the deck chairs on the Titantic,” as Bloomberg would have it. (And also finding time to sport enormous 90s eyeglasses.)

Contrary to the Bloomberg campaign’s attempts to paint Thompson as an ineffectual bureaucrat, however, we learn that Thompson, occupying an office without much power, was able to provide political cover for more ambitious chancellors to enact education reforms—he comes off as an adept political horse-trader, running enough interference, and gauging the political climate effectively enough, that people were able to make things incrementally better, if you don’t mind inefficiency, cronyism, and a fair amount of dependency on special interests.

So, the good news is that Thompson was an effective administrator in the NYC Democratic machine mode. The bad news, of course, is that Thompson was an effective administrator in the NYC Democratic machine mode. (Whereas with Bloomberg, as pre-New Times holdout Wayne Barrett’s current Voice cover story so comprehensively informs us, the good news is that he’s a benevolent dictator, and the bad news is that he’s a benevolent dictator.)